Document Type


Date of Original Version



China has long represented a puzzle for scholars of democracy, who view political trust as an important indicator of regime legitimacy. Previous studies show that while democracies around the world experienced declining levels of political trust, the authoritarian Chinese government maintained unexpectedly high levels of trust. Using World Value Survey (WVS) data over a critical twelve-year period (2001-2012) and multilevel modeling techniques, we explore both macro- and individual-level determinants of political trust in China. We find that province-level economic performance and individual level income combine to influence political trust. Higher levels of individual-level income have a positive effect on trust in more developed provinces but the opposite effect in less developed provinces. Furthermore, individuals living in provinces with higher levels of inequality and openness tend to be less trusting of government. Our study offers critical insights not only for political trust in China but also the country’s political future.